tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera July 28, 2015 10:30pm-11:01pm EDT
thanks for watching this "america tonight" special report. don't forget to come back, we'll have more of the "america tonight" tomorrow. i'm ali velshi, "on target", bitter friends in the middle east. al lies and enemies are often one and the same. behind the nuclear deal - america and iran, and why distrust is a 2-way street. the enemy of my enemy is my friend is an ancient proverb that makes sense until you apply it to the reality the modern middle east. right now the united states main enemy in the region is i.s.i.l., the group that has taken over parts of iraq and syria. in syria, i.s.i.l. is trying to topple president bashar al-assad, but bashar al-assad is
by no means america's friend, he's an enemy. forget the proverb, but you may assume a variation of the proverb is true. an enemy of america's friend is america's enemy. this being the middle east. it's more complicated than that. here is what i mean, turkey agreed to help the united states knock i.s.i.l. out of a 60 mile protected scene of northern syria. the move following a suicide bombing turkey blamed on i.s.i.l., and is allowing the united states to use its air bases to attack i.s.i.l. friends helping each other battle a common enemy. turkey started bombing forces of the kurdistan workers party, known by its acronym p.k.k. they have been fighting for an autonomous region, the pst kk, and the y.p.g. have become america's strongest partners fighting i.s.i.l., they are the
ones that stayed and fought when the iraqi army cut and ran. u.s. and its allies listed the p.k.k. as a terrorist group. zeina khodr is in turkey and has the latest on the campaign against the p.k.k. >> for the first time turkish fighters jets targeted the p.k.k. on turkish soil, following an exchange of fch fire between turkish security forces and the groups. over the past few days turkish jets targeted the group across the border in northern iraq. the security situation undoubtedly deteriorating, there has been a number of incidents. the turkish military blaming the p.k.k. for a number of attacks target ghts the police -- targetting the police in a number of areas across the country. the security situation deteriorating, turkey requested an extraordinary meeting from n.a.t.o. allies, it got the political support, the moral support needed.
we have to remember that turkey declared war on two organizations. i.s.i.l. and the p.k.k. >> n.a.t.o. ambassadors met to give support to turkey as it deals with attacks by groups labelled ass terrorism. . privately some officials urged turkey to show restraint in attacks on the kurdish p.k.k. and not let a 3-year peace efforts with the group collapse. the emergency meeting of n.a.t.o. members highlights the role in the puzzling of the middle east. sitting between europe and asia, turkey's geography and history makes it an ally in a region where rules and prove e rarely fit. >> a member of n.a.t.o., turkey is the only muslim majority nation to be in the organization and has the second largest military force in n.a.t.o. after the united states. turkey is surrounded by long simmering conflicts and hostile
neighbours. to the i think, turkey, a solid ally of israel has been sending money to the gaza strip. but the palestinian enclave controlled by hamas considered a terrorist group by israel and the united states. some reports suggest turkey provided hamas with as much as 300 million in annual aid, coming to a head in 2010 when the turkish sponsored freedom flotilla was intercepted and boarded by it israeli military. that incident led eight turks and one dual national american dead. >> there is a lot of sympathy among the public for palestinian rights. that's not to suggest that all turks are a supporter of hamas. le the ruling justice and development party. they have been able to alived the public sympathy with political support for hamas. >> on the southern flank, turkey
has a porous 800 mile border. now turkey's neighbours are swept up in violence and turmoil. the president was once a close ally to syria's president from bashar al-assad, but he broke with damascus after the bloody assault on protesters in 2011. since then turkey purply let militants, including turks, close its border into syria to fight against the bashar al-assad regime. over time many armed militants joined the frank yallop, beginning -- islamic state of iraq and levant, beginning in 2014. i.s.i.l. forces swept across northern syria and iraq, capturing the second-largest state in mosul in june 2014. critics charge that turkey chose to overlook the black-market oil smuggled into turkey.
by some estimates black market oil supplied i.s.i.l. with as much as 2 million in revenue. >> if i.s.i.l. is smuggling oil over the border, maybe some turkish people benefit, and it's not a great threat to the security of turkey, of course. yes, it gives funds to the islamic state. but turkey's view of the islamic state is ampositive lents. they are determined to see the end of bashar al-assad, and don't see, in looking at syria, see many players likely to achieve that goal. >> one of turkey's complicated relationships is with iraq's kurds, who have autonomy in northern iraq. turkey fought an insurgency on its own territory, taking the lives of 30,000 people. over the past few years turkey forged a relationship with iraq's kurds, yielding 6.2 million barrels of oil,
worth $600 million through a pipeline. the iraqi kurds in turn use that money to finance kurdish peshmerga fighters battling i.s.i.l. forces. >> it provides an economy for the kurds, it provides a benefit to turkey, which has a big oil need, of course. and it's also a way of the putting the - you know, the dampers on kurdish ambitions within turkey itself. the kurds in iraq will not encourage that. >> in the latest development turkey has agreed to let u.s. war planes use the american air base to strike at i.s.i.l. targets in northern syria. the stated goal is to create a safe zone in syria along the turkish border. free of i.s.i.l. fighters and controlled by so-called moderate syrian insurgents. the turks hope it can be a new00m for the estimated -- new
home for the estimated 1.7 million syrians taking refuges in southern turkey. for now, turkey will not send ground troops into syria, a sign that turkey is reluctant to be drawn into a devastating conflict across the southern border. working with turkey to support the syrian opposition is risky business. how the plan could backfire on america's fight with i.s.i.l. i.s.i.l.
joining me from washington to make sense. shift is steven cook, a senior fellow with middle east colleagues. he says by signing up with the turks to establish a safe zone, the united states may risk cementing an alliance between syrian leader bashar al-assad an enemy, and i.s.i.l., enemies. thank you for being with us. you are one of the most
knowledgeable people on this. you were in my story about turkey. i don't understand this part. i don't understand. i.s.i.l. exclusively exists. one of the reasons is to get rid of the bashar al-assad regime in syria, what have we done now. what has america done now that could create alliance out of the i.s.i.l. and bashar al-assad. >> it's not unprecedented that i.s.i.l. and the bashar al-assad regime work together. in your lead-in story you talked about the i.s.i.l. exports of oil. well one of the places that i.s.i.l. has been exporting oil to is the bashar al-assad regime, and selling it to the bashar al-assad forces. there's precedent here. i think my emphasis on cementing an bashar al-assad i.s.i.l. alliance is an alliance of interest. neither the bashar al-assad
regime, nor i.s.i.l. wants the turks to create a safe zone with american help, defended by, as of yet to be named syrian opposition groups. both of them regard that as a problem. after all, this is described in the united states as an i.s.i.l. free zone, and it is clearly an effort on both the turks and the united states to first undo i.s.i.l., and from the turkish perspective undoing i.s.i.l. will lead immediately towards bringing down the bashar al-assad regime. >> that's right, and part of the - one of the points that you made in your writing is that in attempting to take down the bashar al-assad regime, that could help i.s.i.l., it's i.s.i.l.'s goal. they move in to fill the vacuum. when you look apt it from an american foreign policy perspective. do we go after everyone at the same time. >> that's been the challenge. is that you - we have been
reluctant and resisted the idea of supporting bashar al-assad against i.s.i.l., and we've been reluctant and resistant to the ideas of tacitly assisting i.s.i.l. bring down the regime. there's an idea that we should fight both at the same time. the turkish perspective is different. they believe if you bring down the bashar al-assad regime, you essentially take care of the problem. i think american policy makers look at that as a leap of analytic faith. it seems clear that the end of the regime would benefit i.s.i.l., and there would be additional chaos and flood letting after the bashar al-assad fall turkey's priorities are different to americas. it's assumed that note n.a.t.o. members think i.s.i.l. is the greatest threat. to turkey, a resurgent kurdish population, the idea of kurds wanting something in exchange for the fight against i.s.i.l.,
in which they have been effective. that's a bigger threat to turkey. >> you have hit on the point. turkey has different priorities from n.a.t.o. parties. the united states and other countries regard i.s.i.l. as the primary threat. from the perspective of the terks, i.s.i.l. is a new threat. there are people within turkey, supporters of the ruling party who are somewhat supportive of the overall i.s.i.l. view of the world in which the sunni world needs to be defended. but a central drama - if not the central drama of politics since the founding has been a conflict between turkish nationalism and kurdish nationalism. right now, it is intolerable, as the syrian kurds start to develop an autonomous enclave in northern syria, to go away with the autonomous kurdistan region
in iraq, to go along with the fact that a kurdish based party did well in turkey's parliamentary elections, lease are the pressures -- these are the pressures intolerable to the government, and it's clear that president recep tayyip erdogan are seeking to use the fight. it's the way that it undermines the kurdish efforts to create the zone in northern syria. >> this is enough to make your head spin, it's complicated. i'm appreciative that you are here to do it. stay here, i have another complicated topic. secretary of state john kerry may have an easy time reaching a deal with iran over the nuclear programme than selling it to congress. he faced a hostile congress, tweets from ayatollah khamenei are not helping the cause. cause. ens.
the incredible journey continues. >> it's two days on this boat just to get there... >> unspoiled... unseen... under threat... sparks flew on capitol hill, jack lew and another questioned secretary of state john kerry. congress needs a two-thirds majority in both houses to block the deal. it didn't stop the changes getting testiment libby casey has been watching this. there's a part of these hearings that seem like nonsense and political grandstanding. in respect moments that were interesting, where there were members of congress that wanted to do right by the constituents and ask tough questions of the negotiators of the deal. what stuck out for you today. >> absolutely, and on both sides of the aisle, republicans and democrats. for some house members, this is a hot to hear from the administration -- shot to hear from the administration.
i want to give you a sense of the tone of the exchanges. it did get heated. here is tom marino with the secretary of state john kerry, basically tom marino saying that he is concerned about even the negotiations that have taken place so far. >> how is that going to make the united states citizens safer. >> let me tell you, i'll tell you how it makes the united states citizens safer. because if iran implements the agreements we've come to. they will not be able to make a nuclear weapon. we started in a place where they had fissile material for 10-12 bombs, and we rolled that back. it made america safer, and our friends and allies in the region safer. if you kill the deal, that will not make america safer. >> i hope you are right. if not, you, the executive
branch and congress will have a disaster on our hands, and we need to be accountable to the american people >> reporter: republicans have a range of questions - why weren't we engaged more. how can you negotiate with iran of all countries, and leaving congress on the sidelines, they have specific questions about the details of the deal. the biggest centers around this. the i.a.e.a. they have a weekend of 24 days, iran get the 3-week chunk of time to delay before the inspectors can go in and examine a site. a lot of members in congress concerned it's too big of a window. >> you covered a lot of hearings. it's unusual to have three cabinet secretaries testifying. you had jack lew, john kerry, and ernst monez who was with kerry most of the time when the discussions were going on, the
negotiations were going on. he is, himself, a nuclear physicist. how do you think they did? >> they had a couple of points they wanted to make, and make them clearly. jack lew saying sanctions have been successful, and now it's time to push into the next arena. the point of sanctions, was to get iran to the negotiating table. we have achieved that. jack lew saying it's time to move forward. we heard the secretary monez answering specific questions about the deal, and saying that energy experts as well as intelligence experts will be able to tell if iran is breaching its part of the deal. secretary kerry is saying the 24 day window is not as big of a concern as members of congress make it out to be. all the guys said that 24 days is better than an endless stalling, which is what iran was able to do in the past, when they sat down and started talking. there's a point that came up a
lot in the hearing - questions and concerns - iran has said that inspectors will not be allowed into the military facilities. of course, members of congress have concerns. secretary kerry said iran may have to say that for p.r. watch what they do, watch what we do, don't just watch the rhetoric. the administration is saying we will have access and be able to ensure that iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. >> i'm about to discuss the idea that rain has its own internal politics. when the secretary of state testified these end up being historic days to which this is referred from years to come distrust between the u.s. and iran runs both ways. after the nuclear deal was approved. iran's supreme leader ayatollah khamenei tweeted apologies towards the system will see no change. u.s. policies in the region
differ through 180 degrees from iran. and he said the iran deal text approved or not, we will not stop supporting the nation, yemen, syria, bahrain and lebanon. they are full of shia populations. the groups in fighting proxy wars led to the u.s. state department to designate iran as a state sponsor of terrorism for more than three decades. >> it was 1979 when the islamic revolution ushered in a pivotal shift in iran. it listed the country as a state sponsor of terrorism. it remains on that until today. following a truck bombing in beirut killing 231 servicemen. it was linked to hezbollah, a shia group with backing from iran. hezbollah denied responsibility.
in 1994, in argentina, 85 people were killed and more than 300 injured in a bombing in a jewish community center. iran was blamed but said it didn't put out a role. in 1996 iran was blamed for a truck bombing at a facility in saudi arabia, killing 19 u.s. servicemen. years later al qaeda was suspected. in june, the state department released a report saying the state sponsorship of terrorism was undiminished through the guard corp. and its ally hezbollah. iran has been a key supporter of hezbollah, they are united in their resistance to israel. it's for similar reasons that iran supported hamas, which is sunni, that has frayed in recent years, and it's because of syria.
hamas backed militants trying to topple the bashar al-assad regime in syria. they follow alawite islam, an offshoot of shia that iran follows. iran is one of the regime's most powerful backers. iran and the west have a common enemy in the region, i.s.i.l. >> you can't understand i.s.i.s. in the middle east without understanding i.s.i.s. is an ant shia force. it emerged as a powerful force in syria and iraq. if you don't understand that it speaks for sunni power, you won't understand how you can defeat i.s.i.s. recently iran weighed in on the side of yemen, triggering a proxy war. the move sparked concern among the u.s. and allies. officials in iran see the country using its influence to
solve some of the turmoil in the middle east. >> the islamic resolution has a lot of influence in many parts of the islamic world. there are a lot of different areas where iran can play a prominent role in sorting out different conflicts, resolving understanding issues. particularly in dealing with peace and security in the region. iran has always showed that it is a major player. and i think that that is a reality that more or less is understood today. >> let's bring back steven cook. today's hearings in congress, i was surprised. it seemed some of the members of congress read the deal and were talking about technical matters, there's a not very technical matter, that is that the united states, prshry department -- treasury department declared
iran and hundreds of entities in iran as sponsors of terrorism. that is not necessarily going away, there's no commitment on iran's part to get away with the sponsorship of groups that america and israel don't like iran involved in. >> and there's no commitment on the part of the united states. through the nuclear deal to lift sanctions on iran that is related to terrorism. this is a point that the disagrees has been trying to make. the president has made it in his own statements and as has john kerry. it's drowned out in the avalanche of opposition to the agreement. in fact, there'll be a series of actions that will be eased and lifted. it will give iran access to
billions. what will they do. it's been suggested that the iranians will use it at home. where is washington tonne's allies belief that they'll use large chunks of that money to advance and reinforce iran's expanded position in the region, including the houthis in yemen. it's support for hezbollah in leban lebanon, syria and the fight in iraq. >> the person in the story, was the iranian president. her implication was if the united states would allow those iranian-backed forces in iraq to join the fight, which is stood back at time where they were supposed to supply air support.
her implications was that if iran and america share an enemy that can be use: is that a reasonable argument? >> well it's certainly a reasonable arguments in the abstract. i think what they have been careful about is being the air force for iranian backed militias. it's no jet that the iranians used their own revolutionary guard corp to stand up militias in iraq to fight i.s.i.l., that have, themselves, been engaged in mass killings of areas that they liberated from the islamic state. they are quite anti-american. despite what leading iranian officials say, there may be an interests. but i don't believe it will be involved in coordinating iranian backed forces in iraq.
>> always a pleasure to talk to you. steven cook is with the council on foreign relations. that is our show for today, i'm ali velshi, thank you for joining us. countdown to freedom. israeli spy pollard is being released not giving up... >> we feel like we have tried and it feels like it's never enough, because he's not home a young american imprisoned in iran - his family launching a campaign to press for his release breakthrough